EA Games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09

Tiger Woods may be sitting out the rest of the actual 2008 PGA Tour to rehabilitate a busted knee, but that hasn't stopped the golf series that bears his name from offering a bunch of thoughtful touch-ups.

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EA Games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
  • EA Games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
  • EA Games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
  • EA Games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09

Pros

  • Instant-feedback meter, skill system makes more sense, Club Tuner, Simultaneous Play, graphics

Cons

  • Automatic club caddy gets confused, spectator animation

Bottom Line

A new club tuner, simultaneous online play and input from Tiger's own coach make Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 as close as you'll get to a green.

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The Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 iteration of Electronic Arts' golfing finger-slinger plays like last year's version with perks, ironing out the kinks in its core play while shoring up accessibility with features like a club tuner that lets you tweak everything from wedges to woods, dynamic skills that fluctuate up or down based on your performance, and commentary plus custom drills from Tiger's own real-life coach, Hank Haney.

Factor in five new courses and four new golfers with an international twist plus expanded online challenges, revised minigames, and a simultaneous-play feature that lets up to four players polish off a round without waiting turns, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is the most versatile version of the series in years. The game is available for PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Last year's features return mostly improved in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, including the game's bifurcated swing interface which lets players choose between flicking the left thumb-stick to simulate back- and downswings, or tapping a button three times to indirectly accomplish the same thing. The prehistoric three-click swing is easy to master but feels detached and mechanical, and pulling off complex pop-ups or rare double eagles still requires coming to grips with the analog thumb-stick.

Last year's rendition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour was hypersensitive, causing you to sink balls in bunkers and water hazards with an errant nudge. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 comes with a helpful instant-feedback meter that lets you see precisely how your thumb is moving and feels calibrated to be a trifle more forgiving whether you're swinging with Tiger or just some bogey-prone hacker. You'll still want to babysit the game's automatic club caddy, however, as it gets confused and subs in silly picks on complex courses that require more strategic selections.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 ships with 11 updated courses and five brand-new ones, including Gary Player Country Club in South Africa, our very own Wentworth Country Club, Sheshan Golf Club in China, Wolf Creek in Nevada, and Bay Hill Country Club in Florida. Several of the new courses (Sheshan in particular) have devilishly tricky hazards fronting greens that'll force you to master your backswing and avoid airmailing balls over the green.

Kelly Tilghman and Sam Torrance replace Gary McCord and David Feherty as commentators and do a great if subdued job providing compliments and wry jabs on off shots. Se Ri Pak, Darren Clarke, Nick Dougherty, and Rory McIlroy add an international spin to the game's substantial player roster.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 simplifies the series' skill system, folding everything into just four areas: power, accuracy, short game, and putting. Unlike last year's version, these attributes can now sink as well as rise depending on your performance, a feature that makes far more sense than last year's one-way progressions.

Instead of creating impervious supergolfers, your custom pro will now backtrack in a specific area if he or she plays poorly. Split the fairway with shotgun drives, and your power rating will skyrocket, but pull your drives, and it'll crumble. Hit consistently inside 100 yards of the green, and your short game will soar — or collapse if you're constantly climbing out of bunkers and water hazards. The only downside? It takes a maddening 10 or more seconds to save your game, something that happens automatically each and every time an attribute changes.

Dovetailing with EA Sports' recent attempts to shore up accessibility in all its sports titles, PGA Tour 09 introduces Tiger Woods's personal coach Hank Haney to walk you through the basics and shepherd you from, hopefully, novice to semi-pro. After completing a preliminary start-up test that assigns you a basic "My Skill" rating, Hank will gauge your progress as you play through tournaments and challenges.

While his audio commentary leans toward the generic, it's his follow-up drills that merit kudos. Polish off a course or challenge, and he'll offer optional power, accuracy, short game, and putting regimens that can temporarily bolster your attributes. The verbal advice may amount to fortune-cookie wisdom, but the focus sessions actually help you get a handle on the interface much more quickly than banging through in-game months of tournament play.

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